UK jus­tice in the dock over at­tacker freed to kill

▶ Al­low­ing ter­ror­ist Us­man Khan into the com­mu­nity showed gaps in proper vig­i­lance

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demon­strate that he can safely be re­leased; such a de­ci­sion is then bet­ter left to the Pa­role Board for con­sid­er­a­tion prox­i­mate in time to the date when re­lease be­comes pos­si­ble.”

But yes­ter­day, the Pa­role Board was quick to dis­tance it­self from the de­ci­sion to re­lease Khan.

“We have ev­ery sym­pa­thy with those af­fected by the dread­ful events that hap­pened in Lon­don Bridge yes­ter­day,” it said.

“Given the se­ri­ous­ness of this at­tack, it is un­der­stand­able that there is spec­u­la­tion about the at­tacker’s re­lease from prison.

“The Pa­role Board can con­firm it had no in­volve­ment with the re­lease of the in­di­vid­ual iden­ti­fied as the at­tacker, who ap­pears to have been re­leased au­to­mat­i­cally on li­cence [as re­quired by law], with­out ever be­ing re­ferred to the board.”

Mr Khan said the law needed to be changed to pre­vent dan­ger­ous of­fend­ers from be­ing au­to­mat­i­cally re­leased. “When a per­son is re­leased on li­cence, does the Min­istry of Jus­tice and the pro­ba­tion ser­vice have the re­sources to su­per­vise people who are clearly dan­ger­ous?” he asked.

One of the is­sues in the com­ing elec­tion has been the time pris­on­ers serve in jail.

Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son has been calling for of­fend­ers to serve longer sen­tences.

On Fri­day, he re­it­er­ated his con­cerns and said it was a “mis­take” for Khan to have been re­leased.

“It is very im­por­tant that we get out of that habit and that we en­force the ap­pro­pri­ate sen­tences for dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals, es­pe­cially for ter­ror­ists, that I think the pub­lic will want to see,” he said.

He called a meet­ing of the gov­ern­ment’s emer­gency committee Co­bra to address the at­tack.

Ter­ror­ism lawyer Paul Gen­ney told The Na­tional: “It is clear that dan­ger­ous of­fend­ers should be made to serve their full sen­tences. If this man had been serv­ing the full 16 years handed to him then this atroc­ity would not have hap­pened.”

Khan, from Stafford­shire, has a history of ter­ror­ism of­fences. He was ar­rested in 2012 with a group that had a list of pos­si­ble tar­gets to at­tack, in­clud­ing the homes of Mr John­son, who was Lon­don mayor at the time, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathe­dral and two rab­bis.

Se­cu­rity has been in­creased in Lon­don be­fore the Nato sum­mit this week.

Us­man Khan was known to po­lice when he stabbed and killed two people on Lon­don Bridge in broad day­light on Fri­day. Khan had been con­victed in 2012 as part of a ter­ror­ist cell that plot­ted to blow up the Lon­don Stock Ex­change, among other tar­gets. Three mem­bers of his nine-man cell, in­spired by Al Qaeda, were ini­tially sup­posed to be held in prison in­def­i­nitely. In 2013, how­ever, the Court of Appeal gave the mas­ter­minds – in­clud­ing Khan – fixed-term sen­tences in­stead. The pre­sid­ing appeal judge said at the time that the of­fence of ter­ror­ism was “par­tic­u­larly wide, cov­er­ing acts just short of an at­tempt to con­duct that only just crosses the line into crim­i­nal­ity”.

On Fri­day, that deeply trou­bling de­ci­sion proved to be fa­tal. Khan, who was re­leased in De­cem­ber last year af­ter serv­ing ex­actly half of his 16-year sen­tence – as the ap­pli­ca­ble law states – launched a fren­zied at­tack with two knives, killing a man and a woman and in­jur­ing at least three oth­ers be­fore he was shot dead by po­lice. As Lon­don once again con­tem­plates the tragic af­ter­math of a fa­tal ter­ror­ist at­tack, questions are rightly be­ing asked about whether there are suf­fi­cient mea­sures in place to pro­tect the pub­lic. Un­der the orig­i­nal sen­tence, Khan would most likely still be be­hind bars. Nor was he hin­dered by new counter-ter­ror­ism laws this year, giv­ing tougher sen­tenc­ing pow­ers for non-vi­o­lent ter­ror­ist acts.

At the time of the appeal hear­ing, Khalid Ma­sood had yet to kill five people on Lon­don’s West­min­ster Bridge in 2017; a ter­ror­ist gang had not yet prowled nearby Bor­ough Mar­ket, killing eight people and in­jur­ing 48; nor had 23 con­cert­go­ers – many of them chil­dren – died in a Manch­ester sui­cide bomb­ing. Th­ese in­ci­dents had yet to hap­pen when Khan’s sen­tence was down­graded, but they had taken place be­fore he was re­leased. It sug­gests a woe­fully in­ad­e­quate sys­tem that is still miss­ing es­sen­tial joined-up think­ing that could save lives.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son has said it is a “mis­take” to al­low early re­lease for pris­on­ers. The Guardian news­pa­per last year found more than 80 con­victed ter­ror­ists were due for au­to­matic re­lease be­cause they had come to the end of their sen­tences. The threat comes not just from Is­lamic ex­trem­ists like Khan but right-wing ter­ror­ists; both have been rad­i­calised be­hind bars. Greater pro­vi­sion must be made to mon­i­tor such re­cruit­ment and as­sess con­victs be­fore re­lease to en­sure they will not re­of­fend. Over­stretched pro­ba­tion work­ers must re­ceive proper sup­port and train­ing in recog­nis­ing those who could be a dan­ger as it could mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death for po­ten­tial vic­tims.

Lon­don has proven re­silient in bounc­ing back from such at­tacks and will un­doubt­edly do so again. But it should not take yet more fa­tal­i­ties to serve as a re­minder of the need for greater vig­i­lance in pro­tect­ing the pub­lic. There are more than 220 people be­ing held on ter­ror­ism-re­lated of­fences in Bri­tain. It only takes one lone wolf to cause dev­as­ta­tion. A counter-nar­ra­tive to his mes­sage of hate must be pro­jected loudly be­fore the ide­ol­ogy that he was in­doc­tri­nated with strikes again.


Po­lice help an in­jured man af­ter Fri­day’s ter­ror­ist at­tack near Lon­don Bridge that left two people dead

An un­dated photo of the ter­ror­ist Us­man Khan

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